Literary Excursions: The Mark Twain House

Written by: Emily Graham

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to host my father in Connecticut. Coming from Ohio, I knew that I had to make the trip memorable in some way, so I did some research.

I often forget that Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, lived in a stunning Victorian house outside Hartford. (Last year, for example, my dad and I went to Arrowhead, Herman Melville’s home, because I thought that was the closest author house next to UConn!) I’m glad I made a point to remember Twain’s house this year. As my father is a lover of classic literature, I knew another literary-based trip would work perfectly.

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and we arrived at the visitor center an hour early. Immediately, I was greeted by this friendly Lego fellow:

With time to spare before the tour, we were grateful that the visitor center had an exhibit on Twain’s life and a mini-documentary. By the time we went through it all, the tour was about to begin.

The property, which housed Twain, his wife, and three daughters from 1874 to 1891, is gorgeous and reaches a massive three floors. In typical Victorian fashion, the decoration is incredibly ornate and covered from head to toe in flashy wallpaper, trinkets, and furniture.

Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the house, so I can only show you pictures of the outside; however, I’m sure you can see that it is pretty grand! I wish I could take a picture of the indoor garden because there was a working fountain. (In the photo below, you can see the atrium in the bottom left.) Other highlights included four porches and a dumbwaiter!

The first and second floors were pretty standard — family rooms, a kitchen, bedrooms, and whatnot — but the big surprise came last: the billiards room. While it served as a man cave of sorts, it was, more importantly, where Twain was his most prolific as a writer: Tom Sawyer; Huckleberry Finn; and many other of his best-known works were crafted in that room.

The tour set the tone for the most intimate details of Twain’s life. Twain and his family did not live the rest of their lives here, as a poor business investment led the family to bankruptcy. (They leased the house and lived nomadically across Europe from 1891 to 1896 until Twain could pay off his debts.) And even once he did, the family couldn’t bear to move back since the eldest daughter, Susy, had passed away in the house while the rest of the family was overseas.

As Twain wrote, “It is the loveliest home that ever was,” and it’s unfortunate that his residence there ended prematurely. Regardless, it is an excellent piece of history to visit today. I enjoyed exploring Twain’s house and legacy, and I highly recommend seeing it for yourself!

And we all know that you have to check out the gift shop once it’s all over! 😉


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